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Sweepstakes Letters with a Different Motive

Pushing for donations to untrustworthy "charities"

By Florence Klein
Florence Klein
Courtesy of Florence Klein, Founder, SilverPlanet.com

And now, for another kind of reward letter for a sweepstakes you didn’t enter. This one notes that you may be a winner—but adds that your donation to a specific charity would be much appreciated (although not required to win . . . but I digress).

Several of these have showed up in our mailbox lately; several showed up twice, as reminders. As for which charities that benefit from the donation are legit, well, read on and decide yourself.

1. We “may be the winner” of $7,037 if we return this and that and include a donation of $7 or more to Hospice Support Alliance (HSA) of St. Louis, Missouri. So what is HSA? It’s not the Hospice Alliance, a Wisconsin-based organization, and it’s not Alliance Hospice, a Georgia-based hospice care organization. It’s a program of the National Association for the Terminally Ill (NATI), based in Shelbyville, Kentucky, whose Web site as of September 9, 2009, has been suspended because the account expired. Though it can’t be found on the list of charities at the Better Business Bureau’s site or Charity Navigators’ site, it was found at Guidestar.org, but with records dated 2007. A search of the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Business Services site gives us a clue: It’s a “foreign corporation” that “filed under a fictitious name,” is in bad standing, and is “pending dissolution” for not filing a 2009 report. Three of its seven other assumed names are considered active, and Hospice Support Alliance is one of them.

Without a Web site for either HSA or NATI, or listings at reputable charity organization watchdog sites, transparency looks a little off.

2. Next up, the chance to win $25,000 cash or other prizes worth more than $20,000. This one encourages us to send a check to North Shore Animal League America, an organization founded in 1944 to save homeless pets, find them new homes, and support low-cost spaying and neutering. A page on its Web site discusses the sweepstakes. The closing date is November 30, 2009, and prizewinners will be notified in March 2010. All donors receive a guaranteed prize valued at $2.50. Charity Navigators isn’t impressed with the group. With high fundraising expenses and a CEO salary that’s quite hefty, the group earned a rating of zero stars and has engendered many negative comments from readers.

3. Another sweepstakes offers us the chance to win $7,755, and comes tagged to a nonprofit called United Society for Family and Children. This group’s mission is clearly stated on the back of the notice: “USF&C is committed to help in the restoration of communities as they were in Early America, where religion was the central focus of the community.” It supports efforts to advance “the causes of family and children  enrichment and preservations throughout all communities.”

Not in Charity Navigator or the BBB’s listing, this is another Kentucky-based nonprofit, and the Secretary of State’s business site notes they’re in bad standing and their status is “pending dissolution” for not filing a 2009 report. We got not only the prize notification but also a follow-up letter telling us “do not underestimate the importance of returning your prize reply form.”


Sweepstakes Letters with a Different Motive continues...
 
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Scam Sweepstakes (cont.) 

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